THE family of the longest serving member of one of Wales’s oldest choirs have thanked his fellow choristers for performing an emotional rendition of his favourite song at his funeral.
Retired quarry worker Choir legend Twm Morgan sang with Bethesda based Cȏr y Penrhyn for 64 years until shortly before his death aged 81.
He was a member of the choir’s 2nd bass section, and previously the baritone section, as well as being the choir soloist for many years. He was elected to the honorary role of president in 2001, a title which he held until his sad passing.
In tribute to his career as a chorister and at his widow Vera’s request, a recording of Twm performing the solo part in his favourite piece, The Battle Hymn of the Republic, was played at his funeral last week, before remaining members of Cȏr y Penrhyn joined in live.
More than 200 people attended the service at Bangor crematorium in North Wales, including his widow, Vera, 80, and three children Gwyn, 56, Dylan, 53, and Nerys, 43. He also leaves five grandchildren: Alun, 27, Arwen, aged nine, and Elin ages six, who are all the children of Twm’s eldest son Gwyn; also Aron, aged eight and Harri, aged four, who are Nerys’s children.
Twm followed the footsteps of his father, Emrys, in joining the choir, which was formed in 1893 from a collection of smaller workers’ choirs at Penrhyn slate quarry in Bethesda where he worked.
Emrys Morgan was a precentor or hymn leader (codwr canu in Welsh), a role which required him to hum the notes of a piece before each performance to make sure the singers were in tune. So it was fitting when his son also took a leading role in the choir, the father and son having sung together for several years.
Choir Chairman Alun Davies said: “We were all very sad, because he was such an important part of the choir.
“He was a quiet man, quite a reserved man, he wasn’t one to stand up and take the attention, but he was always pulling your leg, he was always there with a comment or a reaction.
“He was very fond of banter and he loved the camaraderie in the choir. It was a huge part of his life, and a big part of the community where he lived in Bethesda.
“He will be greatly missed.”
Twm had lived to celebrate Vera’s 80th birthday with her at the end of November 2014, but did not survive to see their 60th wedding anniversary which would have been this November.
The choir also performed another of Twm’s favourite songs, Bendigedig, as his coffin was carried into the crematorium, as requested by his daughter Nerys.
She said: “My dad would have walked over hot coals to perform with the choir.
“He never missed a practise or a concert. He lived and breathed that choir.
“As I told the minister when he asked me about his interests, I said: ‘Singing, singing, singing and more singing!
“My mum requested the Battle Hymn of the Republic to be played at the funeral as she wanted to hear his voice one last time, but never did we expect that so many members of the choir would be there to sing it too.
“So that in itself was really special.”
She added: “My dad’s brother, Hefin, his wife and family travelled all the way from their home in New Zealand so they could attend the funeral.
“The community has been overwhelming with their support, coming to see my mum and she’s had hundreds of cards as well as the hundreds of pounds donated in his memory.”
Gwilym Owen, 76, also from Bethesda, is now the choir’s longest serving member. He joined the choir in 1960 and stood next to Twm in the bass section.
He said: “It’s a great loss to me because we sang together for many, many years. He was a very good soloist and he had a lovely baritone voice.
“I’ll miss his banter. He was a lovely man and a character in his own way. He was very mischievous, like a schoolboy sometimes, you could see it in the expression that would come over his face when something happened.”
Owain Arwel Davies is head of music at Ysgol Tryfan in Bangor, and has been the choir’s musical director for the last decade.
He said: “His personality and his dedication to the choir meant such a lot. Illness was really the only thing that would keep him away.
“He was an inspiration for the younger boys, even the young lads of 17 who have just joined, they wanted to go to sing at his funeral.
“I’d challenge anyone to beat his 64 years with the choir.
“He will always be in the choir, I know he has left us but I don’t think his spirit will ever leave, that memory of someone with such dedication will always be with us.”
“There wasn’t enough room in the crematorium,” said Mr Davies recalling Twm’s funeral. “We have about sixty-five members and fifty of us went to sing at the service. The choir were inside, but some people had to stand outside because it was so busy. It was very emotional.”
Twm, originally from Cwm Ystwyth in Ceredigion, moved to the village of Gerlan aged 14 and later to nearby Bethesda.
He took up a job at Penrhyn slate quarry after leaving school at a young age. Although he later worked for a brief period as a porter at the Students Union at the University of Bangor, he soon returned to work at the quarry until he retired.
Among his many performances with the choir he once sang at the Royal Albert Hall in London, and also on a tour in Germany. In 1983 his solo on The Battle Hymn of the Republic was recorded onto an album called Canada ‘83 to mark another of the choir’s foreign tours.
Twm also performed with the choir at the opening of Europe’s longest zipwire at his former workplace, Penrhyn slate quarry, in 2013. (SEE VIDEO).
Cor y Penrhyn singing at the opening of the zip wire at the Penrhyn Quarry: